AN SNP MP has suggested the former Director General of the BBC should accept a cut to his 'lavish' pension to make up for his ‘negligence’ over the Martin Bashir saga.

John Nicolson was asking Lord Tony Hall about his actions in trying to find out the truth about how Mr Bashir, the now disgraced journalist, was able to use forged bank statements to convince Princess Diana to give him an interview.

The former BBC chief, appearing before the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee today, was also asked whether he had destroyed a crucial document which showed he was aware of lies told by Mr Bashir before he conducted an investigation into the forgeries, and concluded Bashir was an “honest and honourable man”.

HeraldScotland: Martin Bashir (Ian West/PA)

Mr Nicolson, who was a BBC journalist himself prior to turning his hand to politics, asked about a memo from the former head of programming Tim Gardam, sent to Lord Hall advising him that Mr Bashir had lied three times about the bank statements.

The memo was from the time Lord Hall was conducting an investigation into Mr Bashir’s Diana interview in 1996. He concluded the investigation yb stating that Mr Bashir was an “honest and honourable man”.

HeraldScotland: SNP MP John Nicolson

Mr Nicolson said: “You met Martin Bashir and reported back [that] 'he is an honest and an honourable man'. But you knew he wasn't.

“Let's look back at the Tim Gardam memo…he had given you this memo and it told you that Martin Bashir had had lied three times. What happened to that memo that he gave to you?”

Lord Hall said he had “acted upon it” by reinvestigating the claims about Bashir, however when asked where the memo was that he had been given, he replied: “ I’m sorry I don’t know. This was 25 years ago, Mr Nicolson, and I can’t tell you what happened to various documents.”

The SNP MP added: “Did you place this very important document in the BBC's files with the other Bashir notes? It's gone, it's gone missing. Did you destroy it?”

Lord Hall responded: “Absolutely not.

“The way that I looked at all these things…I approached this with an open mind, trying to get through to the truth. And we, and not just me but others, were lied to by Martin Bashir and that's the root of it.”

HeraldScotland: Martin Bashir and Diana

Mr Nicolson added: “You painted Earl Spencer as a co-conspirator with Bashir involved in falsifying the content of forged bank statements. You'll understand Earl Spencer's outrage at this.

“I have in front of me here the document that you wrote, and you said that Earl Spencer had showed some documents to Martin Bashir including a bank statement.

“Earl Spencer did no such thing. Martin Bashir showed the forged documents.

“You wrote this, gave it to the board and it was false. And it's got your name on it.”

Lord Hall repeated that he had been lied to by the rogue journalist which was why he had provided details to the BBC board which were false.

Mr Nicolson then suggested Lord Hall take a cut of his “lavish pension”, to make up for his “negligence”, saying: “[The Dyson inquiry into the Bashir scandal] cost £1.4m. That's 9000 licence fees, directly as a result of your negligence.

“Lord Hall, it is really very hard to believe that you were once thought of as a safe pair of hands. Having presided over the BBC equal pay cover up, the pensioners TV licence fiasco, and now this scandal, don't you think perhaps that a forfeit of some of your lavish BBC pension would be appropriate?”


The former broadcast chief said: “Let me just say that I have been a public servant for 35 years, at the BBC running news, I then left and did public service running the Royal Opera House, which at that time was in crisis.

“I rescued the Cultural Olympics for the Olympics in 2012, and I came back to the BBC, which I never thought I ever would do or wanted to, in 2013, to rescue the BBC from the crisis that was involving Saville.”

He added: “25 years ago, myself, and everybody, believed Bashir. We made a mistake. But please don't let that colour the other things that I've done…in terms of my public record of public service over 35 years. I've done a hell of a lot for the BBC, and I think for the arts, and I regret this one thing that we all got wrong because we were lied to by Martin Bashir 25 years ago.”